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David Turner, Byzantium : The 'alternative' history of Europe
When the Latin Roman empire entered upon the world of the Eastern Mediterranean during the last two centuries before Christ, it encountered a group of venerable cultures that may be described as the "Eastern Mediterranean Synthesis" or, more popularly, the Hellenistic world. Socially, culturally, religiously and even economically the East was far better prepared than the Western provinces of the Roman empire, with the possible exception of southern Italy, to withstand the shocks of political and material decline that accompanied profound social, economic and cultural changes in the period between the third and seventh century. The center of Roman power, meanwhile, had shifted to the East, a process that culminated in A.D. 330 when the emperor Constantine the Great inaugurated the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman empire: Constantinople, or New Rome as it came to be known in following centuries.
The citizens of that empire, drawn from a broad ethnographic spectrum and, of course, incorporating a predominantly Hellenic or Hellenised element, never ceased to call their empire the "empire of the Romans" right up till 1453. Even after that date, they still called themselves "Romans". By doing so, they identified with older traditions and cultures of the East Mediterranean Synthesis that had been mobilised by Constantine's transfer of the senior capital. The name New Rome did not imply a nostalgic backwards glance at a Latin past, but a complete surgical transplant of the heart of the Roman empire to the epicentre of an Eastern future, both material and spiritual. ...
How can it be said that the so-called "Byzantine" empire represents a valid continuity of the Romano-Hellenic world? What are our controls? Do we look at language and culture? Modes of production, ideologies and institutions? Religious life and worship? ... I would argue, however, that there is a far more important control that should be considered in any discussion of continuity, a control that transcends simply mapping out periods of change and stasis, and that even can be said to transcend time itself. It is called the human being.
Cf. 3 Posts on the fall of Byzantium, Yeats : Sailing to Byzantium (1927), Byzantium (1930) * E, Aspects of Byzantium in Modern Popular Music * Berl, The West Owed Everything to Byzantium * Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire * Toynbee, The pulse of Ancient Rome was driven by a Greek heart * * Constantelos, Greek Orthodoxy - From Apostolic Times to the Present Day * Al. Schmemann, A History of the Orthodox Church * Valery, What is to Become of the European Spirit? * Nietzsche, The European Nihilism * Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism * Pope Benedict XVI, The Papal Science * J. O. y Gassett, The Revolt of the Masses * CONSTANTINOPLE